Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:124, Part-I)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Imamat, Pinnacle Honor of Prophet Ibrahim
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَإِذِ ابْتَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا ۖ قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي ۖ قَالَ لَا يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿١٢٤﴾
2:104 When his Lord tested Abraham with certain words (commands) and he fulfilled them, He said, ‘I am making you the Imam of mankind.’ Said he, ‘And from among my descendants?’ He said, ‘My pledge does not extend to the unjust.’
Commentary: Allah (SWT) tested Prophet Ibrahim (AS) with a series of difficult and strenuous assignments [كَلِمَاتٍ]. With sincerity and brilliance, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) fulfilled his missions. Amongst them were A) preaching to Babylonians against worshipping idols, which cost him to be thrown into a large fire B) taking his wife (Hajer) and infant child (Ismaeel) to a barren land, which today is Mecca and C) fulfilling the received vision from God of sacrificing his son Ismael.
After Prophet Ibrahim succeeded in executing these breathtaking tasks, Allah (SWT) gave him the news that “He is appointing him as the “Imam” for mankind”:
…..قَالَ إِنِّي جَاعِلُكَ لِلنَّاسِ إِمَامًا …….﴿١٢٤﴾
Prophet Ibrahim was so thrilled that he invoked Allah (SWT) to grant the position of “Imamat”, or being Imam of mankind to his offspring:
….قَالَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِي …..﴿١٢٤﴾
Allah (SWT) replied, “My covenant (the position of Imamat) does not reach to the unjust”.
….قَالَ لَا يَنَالُ عَهْدِي الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿١٢٤﴾
This verse raises a question as to whether “being Imam” is the same as “being prophet”. If it is different, then what does it mean to be “an Imam to mankind”?
An answer to this question relies on finding as to whether Ibrahim (AS) received the news of being Imam to mankind before his prophethood or after. If it was after, which is the case, then there must be a difference between prophet and Imam. What is this difference?
This essay begins with a synopsis of the divine assignments [Arabic: (بِكَلِمَاتٍ)] that Ibrahim carried out with sincerity and success. Through the narration of these events, we establish that the news of becoming Imam reached Ibrahim (AS):
at an old age
after the birth of Ishaq (Isaac) and Ismael (Ishmael), and
after he had been a prophet for many decades.
That is, Ibrahim (A.S) received the news of being Imam while he was a prophet. This asserts that being Imam is different than being a prophet. If being Imam was the same as prophet, Allah (SWT) would not reminds Prophet Ibrahim (AS) at an old age that “He is going to appoint him an Imam”, when he had already been a prophet for many decades?
اللَّهُمَّ أَحْسِنْ عَاقِبَتَنَا فِي الْأُمُورِ كُلِّهَا وَأَجِرْنَا مِنْ خِزْيِ الدُّنْيَا وَعَذَابِ الْآخِرَة
2:124 [وَإِذِ] and remember when [ابْتَلَىٰ] tried [إِبْرَاهِيمَ] Ibrahim [رَبُّهُ] his Lord [بِكَلِمَاتٍ] with Words (Commands) [فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ] then he fulfilled them [قَالَ] He said [إِنِّي] verily I am[جَاعِلُكَ] going to make you [لِلنَّاسِ] for mankind [إِمَامًا] a Imam [قَالَ] he said [وَمِن] and of [ذُرِّيَّتِي] my offspring [قَالَ] He (Allah) [لَا يَنَالُ]does not reach [عَهْدِي] My Covenant [الظَّالِمِينَ] the wrong-doers